Palliative care funding could relieve burden

By JANICE HARRIS

A SHORTAGE of community nurses to care for Orange people in their homes will be eased if the city receives a share of $35 million in funding for palliative care services, announced by NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner last week.

HammondCare and Silver Chain have been named statewide providers of palliative care for patients in their own homes.

CareWest, based in Orange, submitted a tender for the service, but was unsuccessful.

Ms Skinner said although statistics in Australia showed 70 per cent of people wanted to die at home, only 16 per cent of people actually did. 

“Over half die in hospitals, 20 per cent in hospices and 10 per cent in nursing homes,” she said.

A spokesperson for Orange Health Service said they were not  in a position to provide details of how the funding would ease the burden on community nurses in Orange.

The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association says community nurses have been under pressure to adequately care for patients in the community.

The provision of palliative care services in Orange has been an emotional issue for patients, families and staff at Orange hospital in the last few months, with the closure of medical ward A at the hospital.

It housed many palliative care patients before the introduction of a new model of care, which involved sending patients to smaller hospitals such as Molong, Blayney or Canowindra.

At the time of the closure, hospital management said the majority of cancer patients who were terminal preferred to die at home. 

The issue was immediately taken up by the NSW Midwives and Nurses Association, which said there were not enough community nurses to cope with the workload.

Their campaign to increase staffing numbers, in hospitals and  the community, continues, with members of the organisation’s Orange branch urging central west residents to sign a petition.

The $35 million funding announced by Ms Skinner includes 1545 packages of home support within the next 12 months, rising to 2863 in 2015/16.

Ms Skinner said the new packages would be able to be mobilised quickly and would be offered on a tailored basis through local health districts .

She also announced funding for extra clinical nurse specialists and clinical nurse educators for end-of-life or palliative care, however, Orange Health Service has no details of how Orange and district could benefit from this announcement.

The funding announcement also included more help for families with dying children, and an after-hours telephone support service for palliative care.

janice.harris@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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